Downey Regional's new beginning

Dear Editor:I have always enjoyed reading The Downey Patriot and quite a few friends and patients called me this past week to congratulate me on being the Downey Regional Medical Center (DRMC) Charter Ball honoree based on an article they read in the Patriot. The big news this week has been DRMC filing for Chapter 11 reorganization and I felt compelled to write the Patriot on this rather profound development at our local hospital. I have been the Medical Director at DRMC for over 10 years and have practiced in the city of Downey for almost 20 years. I fell in love with DRMC in the mid 1980's (it was named the Downey Community Hospital at that time) when I was moonlighting for the late Gallatin Medical Clinic while completing my postgraduate training with UCLA. I was struck by how the physicians, nurses and employees took pride in their work and how the culture was like one big family. This was not unlike how the hospitals and businesses were in my home state of Iowa but I did not expect to find a place like this in Southern California. Although we have gone through many changes at DRMC, it is still a place where our people take ownership and personal responsibility in providing the best and safest patient care. While physician peer review is a joke at most other hospitals, the physicians at DRMC take peer review seriously. Patient Safety is receiving a lot of press these days; we have tirelessly addressed this issue at DRMC before it was a popular catch phrase. The Chapter 11 filing does not signify the end of our great hospital but what I believe is a new beginning. Our Hospital Board of Directors made a very bold and painful decision when they replaced our previous president and CEO (who had been in the position for over 30 years) with Mr. Ken Strople 27 months ago. We had been losing $2 million per month for more than seven years and went through about $150 million in capital and were told that this was simply the cost of doing business. Ken did not buy this and with the help of our Executive Vice President and COO, Rob Fuller, systematically broke down all the aspects of DRMC's business practices and within one year stopped the bleeding of cash. Richard Yardley was brought in as CFO and he assisted in further identifying the literally thousands of broken or inefficient business practices. DRMC has now had 16 consecutive months without a financial loss which is better than almost any other hospital in our area. However, DRMC was still unfortunately shackled by the enormous financial burdens of bad contracts between the hospital and various other entities which were put in place before Ken Strople took over the reins. In the end, in spite of running the rare profitable Southern California hospital, DRMC simply did not have the cash reserves to honor all of the historical obligations and had no other choice but file the Chapter 11. This allows the hospital to pay its debts of the past in a rational way over time. I have full confidence that our executive team at DRMC will keep our beloved hospital in business while providing the highest quality health care in our area. The Chapter 11 filing does not mark the end of DRMC, it signifies a new beginning. - Bill H. Kim, MD, FACG, Medical Director, Downey Regional Medical Center

********** Published: September 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 22